American Family Economic Protection Act of 2013 - Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:  Jeff Sessions III
Date: Feb. 28, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, we have heard a lot of discussions recently about the author Bob Woodward and his comments about spending and the sequester. It is important for us to understand this. This is not an easy matter. We have a lot of confusion, I think, as to what has been happening in the Senate. So from my perspective, as ranking member on the Budget Committee, I wish for all of us to understand the issue that is at stake.

Here is what Bob Woodward said in his Washington Post Op-Ed earlier this week:

So when the President asked that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he's moving the goalpost.

And when the President talks of spending cuts, he's referring to some other spending cuts somewhere in the government so that they do not fall so hard on defense, for example.

But Bob Woodward goes on to say--referring to the President's request for a substitute--that was not the deal he made.

So we need to all remember what happened was that in August of 2011, after the American people were aroused and spoke strongly in the 2010 election, the debt ceiling was reached. We couldn't borrow any more money. Since we are borrowing almost 40 cents out of every dollar, it amounted to a 40-percent cut in spending, had we not raised the debt ceiling. So it was important to raise the debt ceiling, but it was also important to do something about the surging debt. So a bipartisan agreement was reached, and the agreement essentially said we will reduce spending $2.1 trillion, and we will raise the debt ceiling $2.1 trillion.

The good news, for those who wanted to keep spending, was that we spread the spending cuts over 10 years. But we have already reached the debt ceiling again. We have already spent $2 trillion more than we took in. We have to deal with that again very soon.

I would like to say this to my colleagues: That agreement called for no tax increases; it called for a modest reduction in the growth of spending. Instead of going up $10 trillion, it would go up $8 trillion. Instead of adding $9 trillion to the debt of the United States, we would add $7 trillion to the debt of America by simply constraining the rate of growth in spending. It was not cutting spending. Except the way the sequester part of that agreement was reached, the cuts fell disproportionately on defense and maybe a few other programs. And over 10 years, defense would take a real cut. This isn't war costs. This is a fundamental problem.

What I would say to my colleagues is this: Please don't come in and say, there are loopholes we can close or we can tax the rich more here and we can do this, that, and the other in order to bring in more revenue and to spend more. You see? But we agreed to a new baseline in spending. It passed the House and the Senate and the President signed it into law. He agreed to it. And he was the one who insisted on the sequester, even though he has denied it since. He got that, he and his budget director, Mr. Lew, whom he just promoted to Secretary of the Treasury. So he agreed to that. And closing loopholes is simply a tax increase, of course.

So if we agree at some point to close loopholes, it ought to be part of tax reform and it ought to be part of reducing the deficit, not funding new spending. Because, you see, we have agreed to this new baseline. When the President says don't do the sequester, the sequester amounts to $1.1 trillion out of the $2.1 trillion in reduced spending. So he is talking about increasing spending over the amount he just agreed to 19 months ago. He is talking about increasing spending at a time this Nation has never faced a more serious systemic financial debt crisis. And his excuse is that we will close loopholes.

But you see, reducing the amount of new debt we incur over 10 years from $9 trillion in to $7 trillion is not enough. The budget commission, experts, everybody knows--ask anyone in this Senate, liberals and conservatives, and I don't think a single one would say that increasing the debt by $7 trillion over 10 years is good. Our current debt is $16 trillion. This is not a healthy trend.

We know we can't give away the cuts we just agreed to. What would we tell the American people? We already told them: We know you are unhappy that we are raising the debt ceiling, we know you are mad at us for putting the country in this situation, but we are going to cut spending, trust us. Trust us. And then here we waltz in, less than 2 years later, with the President saying that we cannot cut as much as we promised, as agreed to and signed into law. He says that is too much. He tells us that he is not going to help us find a smarter, more effective way to do the cuts.

I don't think that is good policy. What I urge my colleagues to do, and I believe it is the right thing, is to make the decision--and we have no choice but to make it--that we are not going to give up the little bit of spending cuts we achieved in 2011, which are not spending cuts but a small reduction in growth in spending. We should advise the President that we stand ready--and I am confident I can speak for the Republicans in this Chamber that we stand ready--to try and spread those cuts out in a way that is smarter and is less painful, because everybody should tighten their belt to help get this country on a sound path. We are willing to do that, but we should state we are not willing to allow the President to breach his agreement--as Mr. Woodward said, the deal he made--that he signed, that is in law and that has created a new spending baseline. We should not give up on that 19 months after we agreed to it. What a mockery that makes of the integrity of our government and the commitment to fiscal responsibility.

Let's work together on this. We had a big tax increase in January and a spending agreement in August of 2011. So now let's get on with it and operate in the world we are in. I don't believe we will avoid the sequester by raising taxes and increasing spending over the level to which we agreed. It won't happen. So we might as well get serious and figure out a way to help make this work in a more rational way.

I thank the Chair, and I yield the floor.

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